Preview 2009 - Defense
2009 CFN Indiana Preview
2009 Indiana Depth
2008 IU Preview
2007 IU Preview
What you need to know:
It’s time for the defense to finally do something right after
finishing 107th in the nation in total defense, 105th in pass
defense and 91st in run D. With experience, depth, size and
athleticism, it all should be there for there to be some
semblance of production in some way, shape, or form. Led by
Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton on the ends the pass rush will
be among the best in the country. The linebacking corps is solid
around Matt Mayberry in the middle, but Will Patterson has to
come back healthy from a wrist injury. The secondary has depth
and potential, but the corners are so suspect that leading
receiver Ray Fisher is moving over to play one spot and both
starting safeties, Nick Polk and Austin Thomas, are coming off
of ACL injuries.
Tackles: Matt Mayberry, 89
Sacks: Jammie Kirlew, 10.5
Interceptions: Austin Thomas, 2
Star of the defense:
Senior DE Jammie Kirlew
Player who has to step up
and become a star: Senior CB Ray Fisher
star on the rise: Junior LB Tyler Replogle
Best pro prospect: Senior DE Greg Middleton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Kirlew, 2)
Middleton, 3) LB Matt Mayberry
Strength of the
defense: Defensive end, experience
Run defense, pass defense
Everyone was focusing on Greg Middleton after his breakout 2007
season, and it was senior
Jammie Kirlew who turned into the star. A tremendous athlete
with a great burst off the ball, the 6-3, 263 pounder finished
second on the team with 74 tackles with 10.5 sacks and 19.5
tackles for loss. Voted the team’s most valuable player, he was
consistently disruptive with sacks in eight games and an
11-tackle day against Penn State. Now he’ll be the one getting
all the attention, but he’s good enough to keep improving and
come up with another first-team All-Big Ten season.
Senior Greg Middleton led the nation in sacks in 2007 with 16 to go along
with 17 tackles for loss and 50 stops. With his pass rushing
ability and his 6-3, 285-pound size he was one of the hottest
players coming into the 2008 season, but he struggled as a
marked man and wasn’t able to generate the same production
making just four sacks and 18 stops. He’ll move around a
little bit and will see some time at tackle, but it’s salary
drive time. An ideal 3-4 end at the next level, he needs a
2007-like season to boost his stock back up. Now that he has
pushed harder this offseason to become a star again, he should
be back to form.
Deonte Mack will be
back in the mix at tackle. The 6-3, 286-pound junior made 21
tackles with two sacks on his way to a decent season, but he
underwent hip surgery this off-season and missed all of spring
ball. He’s tough and should fight his way back on the field; he
missed spring ball last year with a shoulder injury. A bulked up
end, he needs to be stronger against the run now that he’s in
his third year up front.
The spotlight will be on
Nicholas Sliger, a 6-3, 293-pound redshirt freshman who
dominated on the scout team last season. Mr. Football in Indiana
in 2007, Sliger is a pure tackle who should grow into a mauler
on the inside. While he’s quick enough to get into the
backfield, he’ll be at his best, with a little bit of
experience, against the run.
Projected Top Reserves:
With help needed right away on at defensive tackle,
Jarrod Smith will
move over from the offensive side to add more size in the
middle. At 6-4 and 301 pounds, the junior has the bulk and he
has playing experience seeing time at both guard and center.
However, he hasn’t played on the defensive line since high
Terrance Thomas is
another big end who’ll be a steady part of the rotation. The
junior worked mostly at tackle making six tackles, and now he’ll
move to the outside to play behind Middleton. He’ll also be a
major factor on special teams.
Watch Out For
... the offensive linemen. Jarrod Smith should be a good
tackle with a little bit of time, he’s too big to not add more
of a physical element inside, while
Milton Owens will
also see work after being a key backup on the other side of the
Strength: Pass rush. Middleton and Kirlew
should be the most dangerous pass rushing tandem in the Big Ten.
Expect Middleton to regain his 2007 form and Kirlew to be
strong, even if he’s likely to take a minor step back in overall
Weakness: Stopping the run. This
has been a major problem for the last few years, and considering
there’s so much size and quickness up front, it’s inexcusable.
Wisconsin ran over the Hoosiers like they weren’t even there,
Michigan State has owned the IU front four for the last few
years, and Ball State and Illinois had few problems. The tackles
have to be far better.
Outlook: There will be
plenty of sacks and lots of tackles for loss, but this group
should have problems with spread offenses and, despite the good
size all across the four positions, will get pushed around by
any physical line. Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew form a
special pass rushing combination that could come up with 25
sacks if everything is working right, but more is needed from
the tackles. The situation could be a nightmare if Deonte Mack
isn’t 100% back from a hip problem.
The linebacking corps has its star back with senior
returning to his spot in the middle. After two decent years, he
became the team’s leading tackler with 89 stops to go along with
five sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. He hit the weight room hard
and went from a safety-sized defender to 244 pounds on his 6-2
frame. Tremendously athletic, he’ll be used in a variety of ways
and should be a key pass rusher once again.
Returning to his
spot on the weakside, eventually, will be 6-1, 236-pound senior
Will Patterson, a tough-tackling leader who made 55
tackles last year before suffering a knee injury. He was out
this offseason with a wrist problem, but he’ll be back in time
to continue his solid career as one of the team’s most
disruptive players. While he’s average against the run, he’s
good in pass coverage and is solid at getting into the backfield
with 8.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He made 104 stops in
2007 and has the potential to be an all-star if he can stay
Working on the strongside will be
Tyler Replogle, a
6-2, 231-pound junior who’s tough and very active inside or out.
Versatile enough to play and of the three positions, he’s just
getting back to full form after tearing his ACL two years ago.
He managed to get back in the mix last year and made 38 tackles,
but he has the talent to do far more now that he’s fully healthy
and as the starter.
Projected Top Reserves:
Until Patterson is back and ready to go, senior Justin
Carrington will be counted on to be a key player on the
weakside. The former running back moved over a few years ago and
has been a natural as one of the team’s key backups. He made 28
tackles last year and proved to be one of the team’s better
open-field tacklers. While he’s not the player Patterson is, at
6-0 and 223 pounds he has decent size.
Overdue to break
out is Darius Johnson, one of the stars of the 2008
offseason. The 6-0, 234-pound sophomore has been a weight room
superstar and has a great combination of quickness, hitting
ability, and range. He’ll work behind Mayberry in the middle
after making 13 tackles, but the job will be his next year.
Former running back
Trea Burgess was a top special teamer last year even though
he only finished with three tackles. At 6-1 and 226 pounds he’s
one of the lighter linebackers in the mix, but he can move on
Watch Out For ... this to
be the team’s strength. The starting threesome should be
excellent while the depth is solid and athletic. There will be a
good rotation and plenty of options for the coaching staff to
play around with.
Strength: Speed and
quickness. Considering the size, this group can get around the
field and they can all get to the ball. Mayberry and Patterson
are an excellent twosome who should combine for over 150
tackles, while Replogle has star potential.s
Holding up against the run. The defensive front didn’t
exactly provide a ton of help against the power running team,
but the linebackers weren’t stars, either. There were too many
problems against the power teams and too many tackles down the
field. This group tries hard, but it needs to be more
Outlook: This is a veteran corps
that started out with several undersized, athletic prospects who
grew into veterans who hit the weight room hard over the last
few years. Matt Mayberry and Will Patterson are a tremendous
twosome who’ll lead the defense, but they, along with all the
rest of the veterans in the mix, have to do far more against the
run. The production simply hasn’t been there over the last few
years, but the talent is in place to change that.
Looking to provide instant help for a major problem area is
Ray Fisher, the
team’s leading receiver last year who came up with 42 catches
for 373 yards and five touchdowns. He hit the weights hard and
got up to 185 pounds on his 5-9 frame, but he’ll still be pushed
by bigger receivers and he’ll have to prove his quickness and
speed can translate to the position. He played corner in high
school, but he’ll be tested early on until he can prove he can
handle the work.
Chris Adkins is back
at the other corner position after surprisingly starting every
game last season. At 6-1 and 186 pounds, he has decent size and
he proved to be an excellent, reliable tackler making 554
tackles. However, he didn’t pick off and passes and he only
broke up four as he tried to learn on the fly. He’s a smart,
tough player with decent speed, but he’s likely out of position.
He’d flourish as a free safety.
Back at his free safety
spot is 6-0, 225-pound senior Nick Polk after finishing
sixth on the team with 52 tackles with an interception and two
broken up passes. The former receiver has often played like a
wideout trying to be a defensive back over the last few years,
but he hasn’t been too bad outside of problems staying healthy.
He had a hamstring issue last offseason and now he’s trying to
return from a torn ACL that knocked him out of the final five
games of last year. When he’s right, he has good speed and is a
nice hitter, but he might need a while to be back to 100%.
Also trying to return from an ACL injury is strong safety
Austin Thomas, a 6-2, 221-pound senior who made 41 tackles and two
interceptions in just six games before getting knocked out for
the year. He also had problems with an ankle injury. A great
tackler, he led the team in stops with 112 two years ago and was
just starting to get better against the pass before he got hurt.
A tone-setting hitter, the team needs him back to be an
intimidating force in the defensive backfield.
Projected Top Reserves: Until Nick Polk is back at free
safety, 6-1, 223-pound junior
Jerimy Finch will
step in and take over. At the very least he’ll be a key part of
the rotation after serving as a top special teamer who blocked
two kicks and finished with six tackles in just five games of
work. He has good size and excellent quickness, and he’s finally
healthy after suffering a broken leg as a freshman.
Working behind Austin Thomas at strong safety, and holding down
the starting job until Thomas is healthy, will be
Jarrell Drane, a 6-2,
197-pound sophomore who saw a little bit of time in three games
and made two tackles. Mostly a special teamer so far, he’s a
good tackler who should be a major factor over the next three
Richard Council was solid last year getting seven starts
throughout the midseason and finishing the year with a
team-leading nine broken up passes. He also showed he could hit
with 45 tackles, but he got knocked out for the year with an
ankle injury. At 6-1 and 201 pounds he has excellent size to
combine with the smallish Ray Fisher at one corner spot.
Sophomore Donnell Jones
is a very raw prospect with big-time upside. The 5-10,
210-pounder can hit, is very fast, and has a little bit of
experience making 20 tackles with an interception and four
broken up passes. He’s going to combine with Chris Adkins for
one spot and will also see time as a nickel back.
Watch Out For ... Fisher. The secondary was a nightmare
last season and needs new blood at corner. The receiving corps
has so much potential that the team’s leading receiver, Fisher,
is able to move over to try to add something more to the corner
Strength: Depth. There are good options
at all four spots. While there will be a drop-off if the
starting safeties, Nick Polk and Austin Thomas aren’t 100%,
there are plenty of interesting athletes.
Pass coverage. Despite having one of the nation's best pass
rushes to help the cause over the last few years, the secondary
has still been awful. There weren’t many high octane passing
games in the Big Ten, but that didn’t matter as the Hoosiers
were lit up for 261 yards per game and 20 touchdowns.
Outlook: There’s plenty of quickness, decent size, and
several good options to tinker with, but there isn’t much in the
way of proven production. The pass defense was miserable last
season and might not be appreciably better with last year’s
leading receiver, Ray Fisher, playing a key role at one corner
and starting safeties Nick Polk and Austin Thomas iffy at best
after coming off torn ACLs. On the plus side, the pass rush will
be there to help. On the down side, there isn’t much in the way
of coverage ability.
Gone is Austin Starr after a bit of a disappointing season
hitting 10-of-17 field goals. In comes
Nick Ford, a junior
who hit one extra point last year. He doesn’t have a huge leg,
but he’ll be given every shot to be the main man from 40 yards
and in. However, he’ll be pushed by
Mitch Ewald, a true
freshman who has been ranked as one of the nation’s top kickers.
He has a monster leg with range well beyond 50 yards.
Sophomore Chris Hagerup
had a great season averaging 42.4 yards per kick and put 14
inside the 20, but he has to return healthy after undergoing
offseason ACL surgery. He’ll be ready to go by the start of the
season and should be one of the Big Ten’s better kickers.
Ray Fisher was the
team’s best punt returner last year averaging a decent 9.6-yard
per try. RB Demetrius
McCray will replace Marcus Thigpen as the team’s top kick
returner after averaging 22.8 yards per attempt on his 17 tries.
Watch Out For ... Ewald. He won’t have the job
handed to him when he hits campus, but he’s arguably the
program’s best recruit this year and could be a star over the
next four years.
Strength: The return game.
Fisher was a good punt returner and McCray should be a weapon as
a kickoff returner. As long as Hagerup is healthy again, the
punting game will be a strength.
Kickoff coverage. This was a big, big problem last year allowing
24.3 yards per attempt with a touchdown. The IU defense needs
all the positive field position it can get.
The special teams won’t be outstanding, but they’ll be
solid. The kicking game will turn out to be fine with
super-recruit Mitch Ewald good enough to step in if Nick Ford
doesn’t get the job done, while Chris Hagerup will be one of the
Big Ten’s best punters if he’s over his ACL injury. The coverage
teams could be better, but the return game will be solid.